NRG talk: ‘Teens, texts and tropes’ (Dr Michele Paule, Oxford Brookes) – 09/03/16 4pm CG17

Please see below for details of our next NRG visiting speaker in the Faculty Seminar Series – all very welcome.

Wednesday 9 March 2016 (4pm, CG17)

Dr Michele Paule, Oxford Brookes University

Teens, texts and tropes: an archaeological approach to ‘successful girl’ narratives

In this talk I will offer some insights into ‘successful girl’ narratives in popular and educational contexts, using Foucault’s (1969) Archaeology of Knowledge as a starting point for investigation. In doing so I am aware that the Archaeology not only has failed to attract the degree of interest from feminists that his work on genealogy, power and ethics has done, but also presents particular challenges to the possibility of agency through its relentless insistence on the ways in which discourse creates us. However, I argue that it offers a useful theoretical framework for understanding the reproduction of a pervasive discourse in a historical moment characterised by the dominance of neoliberal and postfeminist ideologies, and by unprecedented opportunities for the global and local dispersal of media narratives. Further, I suggest that the Archaeology enables the researcher to overcome some traditional divides in audience studies between text and viewer, and to address some tensions in qualitative research claims to ‘truth’. In my research, I show how this approach enables recognition of how ‘successful girl’ narratives circulate across educational and media institutions, and are taken up by girls themselves in ways that reproduce structural inequalities and gendered restrictions.


Michele Paule works as a Senior Lecturer in Culture, Media and Education at Oxford Brookes University. Her research interests focus on youth and gender in popular and educational contexts, and the circulation of institutional discourses in diverse communities. Her doctoral thesis explored narratives of successful girlhood across school and media sites and is to be published by Routledge as Girlhood, Schools, and Media: Popular Discourses of Achieving Girls (2016). She has published work on gendered learning myths, on popular constructs of ability and inclusion, and on youth engagement with gendered religious discourse on TV. In a previous incarnation as a secondary school teacher she published extensively for practitioners and students. Michele is currently working with a European funded action research project looking at youth and the gendering of leadership in informal learning contexts in the UK and the Netherlands. She is also a (Labour) city councillor for one of Oxford’s largest housing estates, and has a particular focus on youth inclusion.